Basic Math Blows Holes in Chipotle’s Absurd “Calorie Range” Calculator

The law requiring all chain restaurants in New York City to post calorie information goes into effect today.  And while it is still being fought by the New York State Restaurant Association, many have already complied, including Chipotle, which has already posted a “Calorie Range” for all of the items on their menu.  There’s only one issue… somebody’s math sucks, because when you compare the “ranges” posted to the (very difficult to find) nutritional information on the Chipotle website, it doesn’t quite match up.

My rudimentary math skills get put to the test, after the jump…

Let’s take the basic burrito as an example.  The Chipotle in my building has the range for any Burrito as 420-918 calories.  Common sense might cause somebody to think “Hmmm, low probably refers to the vegetarian burrito, high is burrito with some sort of fatty meat”.    That would be a faulty assumption.

According to the nutritional information on the Chipotle website, the flour tortilla *alone* is 290 calories, leaving one to wonder, what exactly is in this 420 calorie burrito?  Under burrito, the list of ingredients is as follows: (I’ll include the caloric content of each so you can do some fun burrito math)

  • Cilantro & Lime Rice (160)
  • Pinto Beans/Black Beans (138/130)
  • Salsa (15-100 depending on which one you choose)
  • Cheese (110)
  • Sour Cream (120)
  • Guacamole (included in the Vegetarian Burrito only) (140)

And that’s not even including any meat.  So, by process of elimination, if you want a burrito on the low range of the calorie scale (420), you will be ordering a flour tortilla, filled with vegetarian black beans.  No salsa.  No sour cream.  No rice.  No cheese.  Can that even be considered a burrito?  Has anybody ordered a burrito like that?  Ever?

Initially, I thought- “oh, maybe they’re including burrito bowls”, a burrito minus the tortilla- clearly one of the more fattening parts of the equation.  But no- “Burrito Bowls” get their own listing, and the minimum listed for that on the “Calorie Range” is 130.  130 Calories???  Are you joking?  To get a burrito bowl on the low end of the range, you would basically be ordering a bowl, with a scoop of beans in it.  Ridiculous.

The high end is almost as laughable.  A vegetarian burrito, at its least, would be considered rice, beans, salsa, and guacamole (which is included free in the vegetarian burrito) in a tortilla, coming in at a grand total of 740 calories.  And that doesn’t even include cheese (!!!) or the fajita veggies that they give you for free in that particular burrito.  Add some meat (an extra 170-200 calories) and you’re closer (if not over) the high end of the calorie range (listed as 918).  The NY Post lists the Mexican Grilled Chicken Burrito at 1179, a full 250+ calories higher than any range listed on the Chipotle Menu.

While I personally don’t want to know how fattening the food I eat is, I do think fast food chains purposely mis-lead people into thinking their food is healthier than it actually is.  Nobody is going to be fooled into thinking that roast pork with rice, beans and plantains is a low fat lunch, but you’d be surprised at how many people think a vegetarian burrito at Chipotle is low in calories.  I think the law is a good thing if it gets people to eat less fast food, but when you see how Chipotle has distorted the info, it makes you wonder who is going to police it, and how accurate the information really is going to be.

Chipotle Nutritional Information [PDF]

55 Comments

  • I’ve actually LOST weight eating at Chipotle for lunch several times a week. But it’s all about the choices you make. I get a bowl, not a burrito, so that saves me 300 calories right there. I get it with rice, barbacoa, two scoops of the pico (they call it mild sauce) one of the hot sauce and cheese. Comes in right at 500 calories which is less than a salad at Wendy’s.

  • Your calculator is quite helpful. I’m a perpetual dieter, so naturally I realized that the calories listed must be inaccurate. I generally order just a burrito bol with lettuce, meat (normally chicken, maybe carnitas) and ask for fresh tomator salsa, a skimpy portion of black beans and just a tiny drizzle of sour cream–no dressing. I figure that comes to between 360 and 400 calories.

  • Lean steak or pork does NOT contain more fat than chicken, people. Do some research, and you’ll discover lean beef is just as low in fat as chicken…it’s insane how many people automatically assume that (boring) chicken is healthier. It’s a myth.

  • I do not believe this

  • Why should the consumer be responsible. I believe in consumer purchasing power… bargaining…. and people in america give up their power way too easily… i am surprised how many men dont care if they can give their wives good sex here… chipotle and reality tv are no substitute for sports and sex. its all pathetic really, i feel so lonely like me and my friends are not perfect but modern american man make me feel like a god immortal because he is pathetic and makes his women into idiots!

  • you can eat chipotle on a diet- it’s called portion control and making healthy choices.
    i had the veggie fajita burrito (tortilla, veggies, black beans, rice, tomato salsa, corn salsa, and lettuce) which is 665 calories (which admittedly is likely the lower end) according to the calculator, with almost 70% of my daily fiber. 23% of daily fat, 18% saturated fat. If i have a bowl of cereal for breakfast (300 calories) and a light dinner, i can easily eat at chipotle while on a diet. no problem. it’s what you order. obviously if you are loading your burrito with cheese and sour cream there is going to be a problem. just like if you go to subway everyday and get a meatball sub you are going to have problems. the only health problem i see at chipotle is the inordinate amount of salt in that veggie burrito (almost 90% daily sodium) . it would also be nice if they had whole wheat tortillas and brown rice, but as it stands you can eat relatively healthy there.

  • Sounds like a more accurate calorie estimate for their food options would be to put a “1″ in front of each choice. For example:
    Burrito: (1)498-(1)918

  • Good grief, these posts were incredibly entertaining.

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    Chipotle Management: I want a free Fajita Burrito with all the fixins or else I’m taking this to the authorities

  • I gotta go w/ the Arkansan mentalist here. Chipotle is only good in the volume per buck category. Fat grams would be the thing I’m interested in.

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